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IBM Trying to Become a Hip Agile Software Developer

IBM Trying to Become a Hip Agile Software Developer

Announces slews of new products at annual Impact conference in Las Vegas.

At its annual user and partner Impact conference in Las Vegas this week, IBM announced a slew of new products, including new additions to its WebSphere applications family.

There are also promises of better integration with software products from its recent acquisitions and a new piece of integrated hardware to its Pure line of expert hardware systems.  Today's IBM mainframe comes inside a 19-inch rack and runs on Intel CPUs.

IBM Impact CoferenceIBM Impact Coference

This isn't your father's IBM, or even your older cousin's. Gone is the era when multi-month IT projects ruled the roost, brought about with large-scale mainframe coding projects that seemingly took on lives of their own. This notion is about as old-fashioned as an IBM'er wearing a blue suit with a rep tie. Through a combination of agile development tools and cloud computing, IBM is trying to remake itself as a hip software vendor that can deliver cool apps. It may be working, at least if the hype at the Impact conference is to be believed. 

First, let's run down the new IBM products announced:

-- A new version 8.5 of WebSphere Applications Server that is 16% faster than its nearest competitor, according to Spec benchmarks. It also starts up in less than five seconds. WebSphere is at the center of IBM's software strategy, and there are a lot of IT shops using its code, including Visa for a portion of its credit-card processing and numerous Fortune 1000 companies.

Another example is Steve George, the CIO of Huntington Bank based in Columbus Ohio. The bankis in the midst of a major conversion of his WebLogic apps to IBM's WebSphere platform, with 13 apps already moved over and another 20 in the works. The reason was the eight year-old apps were aging, with high costs for maintenance and sluggish response times. Since the upgrade, Huntington has seen a 20% reduction in maintenance costs and training, and a 40% reduction in the total cost of ownership. His next challenge is to "expose more of our data, and give our business units the ability to change business rules without having to do so much custom development. We don't want to have to keep inserting ourselves into the process when we deploy our apps," he said.  The bank needed a more agile development platform to support its innovative services, including not charging its consumer customers when they have an overdraft for the first 24 hours to give them time to fix the problem.

Banks and IBM is nothing new. But what was interesting was how IBM WebSphere can be found in very small companies now. "We are definitely trying to move WebSphere down market," said IBM Software VP Scott Hebner. He cited chips that embed its code as one example, and that smaller businesses are finding the software more attractive. One such customer is Chris Robins, the CEO of BodyMedia in Pittsburgh. They make wearable body monitors and use a variation of WebSphere calledOperational Decision Management. "We capture a lot of data for our users who want to lose weight. We want to help people understand how they burn their calories and transform it into actionable information." The version of WebSphere is a rules-based platform that is paired with a content management system to give their customers real time information, such as sleep information, physical activity levels and projections to see if you are going to hit your daily calorie targets.

BodyMedia looked at a few open source platforms but "we wanted to have some customization and access, and IBM's WebSphere was the only one that was going to work for us," said Robins. 

David Strom is one of the leading experts on network and Internet technologies. He has written and spoken extensively on topics such as VOIP, convergence, email, network management, Internet applications, wireless and Web services for more than 25 years.

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